It's time to do laundry! Gather your supplies: laundry detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softener, and your horde of screaming children to which you gave birth. What's that? That last bit doesn't seem necessary for washing your clothes? According to the sexist washing instructions one UK woman found in her daughter's hat this winter, children are an integral part of the laundry process — because laundry is meant for mothers. Please join me in rolling your eyes right out of your head. Bustle has reached out to the clothing brand, Missguided, for comment and will update upon hearing back.
According to Indy 100, Sian Robson, a woman living in Ashford, Kent, was going about her business when her daughter showed her the washing instructions tucked inside her wool hat. Underneath the typical directions to wash with like colors was a note. "...Or give this to your mum and she'll wash it," it reads.
Naturally, Robson was a bit taken aback and decided to share it on social media. "Maybe it's just possible Dad is capable of putting on a wash too!?" she tweeted with a photo of the instructions.
She told British tabloid The Sun that she recognizes the joke is meant to be tongue in cheek, but she looked up Missguided and noted that they were "all for promoting girl power." It's ironic, then, that the brand would include a joke that implies a mother will always take care of her child's laundry.
A quick look around Missguided's UK website will show that the brand does seem to want to empower women. In fact, it's literally part of their mission statement.
"Our mission is to empower females globally to be confident in themselves and be who they want to be. ... Everything we create is informed by our customer along with global influences like social media, street style, and popular culture, creating a destination that delivers and encompasses everything it means to be a girl on the go in the world today."
Robson, a university manager, told the Sun that the joke is insensitive.
"They seem like a brand that want to encourage young women to break stereotypes so I'm not sure why they would have something like this in their clothing," she said.
On Twitter, people were less than supportive of her criticism. The comments on her tweet are almost exclusively scornful, mocking her for being overly sensitive. "Get over yourself. It's clearly a joke," tweeted one user. "Its [sic] called first world problems."
Another claimed that "this is why some people don't take sexism seriously."
Of course, it's a common tactic among anti-feminists to brush off concerns as "just a joke," painting feminists as humorless shrews. Yet gender roles in the domestic sphere are a real concern, even in the modern day. In 2016, a study found that when given a sample heterosexual marriage scenario, nearly 75 percent of people assigned "feminine" chores like laundry and childcare to women and outdoor work to men. This was even true of fictional same-sex couples; people thought the partner who had more "feminine" interests should take care of household chores, while the more "masculine" man or woman should do outdoor work. A 2017 study found that women still perform more domestic chores than their male partners regardless of whether they had a job to worry about.
There's even evidence that being married to a man creates more housework for women; a University of Michigan study once found that having a husband created an average of seven extra hours of housework for women. Meanwhile, doing housework is painted as a threat to men's masculinity in pop culture.
With the overwhelming pressure on women and girls to take care of housework, is it any wonder Robson was worried about the effect that woolly hat's note would have on the girls who read it? When you're the mother expected to clean up after her entire family, a joke like that simply isn't funny.